Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

24 July 2015

I Tried To Be Graceful. Spoiler: He Was Gracious.

The last time I rode to Connecticut, I made a wisecrack about how the Swiss boarding schools might still be teaching good manners after all.  Well, I saw evidence of that today when—you guessed it—I rode to Connecticut.

I was riding—coasting, actually—down the same street that prompted my quip.   Although there wasn’t a street fair, a lot of people were there, shopping in the boutiques—and walking around with the frappucinos they got in Starbuck’s. (I guess the coffee purveyor is the street’s concession to mass market!)  Even though I was controlling myself, I was going at a pretty good clip, as the street slopes downward.

Sign to cyclists and pedestrians on a shared path in Cottesloe
Sign on a shared path in Perth, Australia.  Photo by Jo Beeson.  From ABC News Australia.

A man stepped into the street, his back turned to me.  He was talking to a woman who I assume is his wife.  Both were dressed in a similar sort of high-dollar casual way.  As they talked, they stepped into the street.  The woman, a step or two behind him, tried to pull him back.  I rang my bell and shouted non-obscenities. (I guess I was trying to show that you don’t have to go to a Swiss boarding school to learn good manners!)  I couldn’t steer out of his path, as not more than the thickness of my glove separated me from a line of cars descending to my left. 

I hit my brakes—and him.  Well, not quite hit:  It was more than a graze, but I careened off his rear left side.  He staggered a couple of steps but didn’t fall.  I stopped.

Before I could ask whether he was OK, he intoned, “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

“I’m sorry.”  I meant it.  It’s the sort of street lots of people cross without looking, and the drivers seem to anticipate it. If I could have steered out of his way, I would have.  It’s useless, really, to scream at pedestrians in such a place.

“I’m really, really sorry.”

“Are you OK?” I finally asked.

I took off my sunglasses.  He looked into my eyes. I waited for him to cross.  He flicked his right hand.  “After you,” he said with a deferential smile.

“Have a good day,” I said.


They really do teach good manners in Swiss boarding schools—or Deerfield or Andover or Groton or wherever he went to school. Or maybe he’s just a gentle, polite man.  Whatever the case, I really couldn’t be angry.  And, to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to be: It was a beautiful day and I was having a great ride.


  1. Wow. I'm from DC and that courtesy rarely happens, no matter how much I'm smiling. Initially, I'm greater with less then colorful words or gestures. After speaking in a low and cheerful tone, their faces turn into a blank muted confusion. Parking lots are another example of pedestrians not taking care of the surroundings.

  2. Steve--It is. I must say, though, I'm still a little surprised.

    Teamdarb--Sometimes I think parking lots are the most dangerous places to be on a bike. And, as you've noticed, being nice or simply polite sometimes leaves people confounded, especially in places like DC and NYC.